More than three dozen Triangle area mayors and council members who publicly oppose six constitutional amendments on the ballot Nov. 6 have been joined by dozens more local elected officials across the state in the days since.
Thirty-eight leaders from Apex, Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Durham, Garner, Hillsborough, Holly Springs, Morrisville, Raleigh, Chatham County, Orange County and Wake County governments signed a letter on Oct. 12 criticizing the amendments’ “potentially damaging impact.”
“Passing any of these six amendments furthers the partisan divide and makes it even more difficult for our state to make the progress it needs to serve all the people of North Carolina so we can meet our potential,” Morrisville Mayor T.J. Cawley said at a news conference Friday, Oct. 12.
The amendments were written by the Republican-controlled General Assembly.
The N.C. Democratic Party opposes them, and The N.C. Supreme Court denied lawsuits from Gov. Roy Cooper and the N.C. NAACP to keep the amendments off the ballot.
Raleigh City Council member Nicole Stewart called the amendments “a bad move for our state.”
The opposition to the amendments is majority Democrat for “the same reason our state has been divided the past 10 years,” she said. “It’s a tough time for North Carolina. It’s a tough time for our country.”
But state GOP Chairman Robin Hayes said voters should decide on the amendments for themselves.
“We find it odd that government officials who are supposed to protect the public, would oppose enhanced protections for crime victims. It is also astounding they would be against making sure grandpas and grandsons and daughters can fish in the future,” Hayes said in a statement.
The N.C. Republican Party has endorsed the amendments, Hayes noted. “We are simply asking voters to read them on the ballot and use their best judgment. This is for the citizens of NC to decide.”
The letter was released Thursday, Oct. 11 by Local Progress and Common Cause NC. Local Progress is a national network of progressive local elected officials; Durham Mayor Pro Tem Jillian Johnson is on its board. Common Cause NC is a nonpartisan organization that opposes North Carolina gerrymandering and advocates for an inclusive political process.
All of Durham’s elected officials on the City Council, County Commissioners and Board of Education have since signed on.
At the news conference, Garner Mayor Ronnie Williams and Morrisville Mayor T.J. Cawley said the amendment capping income taxes would hinder their ability to serve residents and is a nonpartisan issue.
Wake County Commissioner Sig Hutchinson said the tax cap could mean higher sales taxes and other user fees to balance the budget.
Williams said state lawmakers are getting too involved at the local level. “The Jones Street group is trying to tell us what to do,” he said.
The amendments “were written by politicians to sound good, but without any of the fine print,” the letter states. “We are afraid that fine print will eventually be a bad deal for local governments and North Carolina families.”
The letter explains why voters should reject the proposed amendments:
Cap on income tax:
“... has the potential to shift even more money from education to tax breaks for the wealthy. North Carolina has already fallen behind in meeting the needs of its citizens. The limit on current state revenue has put pressure on local budgets and has required local officials to either cut vital services or raise property taxes. Property tax rates have been raised in 74 of 100 counties since 2012. Capping the tax rate will also limit North Carolina’s ability to respond to future unforeseen needs, such as responding to a natural disaster like Hurricane Florence or another recession.”
Voter ID requirement:
“... could have a devastating impact on seniors, active-duty military, low-income and college student populations’ ability to vote, will come with additional costs to taxpayers who fund our elections’ boards at the local level. The proposed amendment will cost an estimated $12 million to state and local governments.”
Victims’ rights and fishing amendments:
“... questions remain about the local costs to implement the victims’ rights amendment and the effect on private property rights and local ordinances of the hunting and fishing amendment.”
Durham City Council member Charlie Reece said the proposed amendments are “awful.”
“In some cases, they offer solutions to non-existent problems. In other cases, the amendments seeks to enshrine in our constitution modest policy changes that could easily be implemented by statute. In still other cases, the proposed amendments are just bad public policy,” Reece said.
“And in nearly every case, there is no enabling legislation for the proposed amendments, and I’m not a huge fan of giving this General Assembly a blank check on issues like judicial appointments or voter ID,” he said.
List of Triangle signers as of Oct. 24:
Town Council member Audra Killingsworth
Mayor Lydia Lavelle
Mayor Pro Tem Damon Seils
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education:
Mayor Pam Hemminger
Mayor Pro Tem Jessica Anderson
Council member Michael Parker
Council member Rachel Schaevitz
Town Council member Karen Stegman
Commissioner Karen Howard
Mayor Steve Schewel
Mayor Pro Tem Jillian Johnson
Council member Vernetta Alston
Council member Javiera Caballero
Council member Mark-Anthony Middleton
Council member Charlie Reece
Council member DeDreana Freeman
Commissioner Brenda Howerton
Commissioner Chair Wendy Jacobs
Commissioner Heidi Carter
Commissioner James Hill
Commissioner Ellen Reckhow
Durham Public Schools Board of Education
Chair Mike Lee
Vice chair Steve Unruhe
Board member Natalie Beyer
Board member Bettina Umstead
Board member Matthew Sears
Board member Minnie Forte-Brown
Durham County Soil and Water Conservation District
Supervisor Danielle Adams
Mayor Ronnie Williams
Mayor Pro Tem Jennifer Weaver
Commissioner Matt Hughes
Mayor Richard Sears
Mayor T.J. Cawley
Council member Steve Rao
Commissioner Penny Rich
Commissioner Barry Jacobs
Commissioner Mark Marcoplos
Commissioner Renee Price
Commissioners Chair Mark Dorosin
Council member Stef Mendell
Council member Nicole Stewart
Mayor Pro Tem Corey Branch
Commissioner Sig Hutchinson
Commissioner Matt Calabria
Commissioner John Burns
Wake County Board of Education
Board member Monika Johnson Hostler
Wake County Soil and Water Conservation District
Supervisor Jenna Wadsworth
Others outside the Triangle who opposed all six amendments on the ballot include elected officials from Asheville, Boone, Candler, Charlotte, Fayetteville, Greensboro, Mecklenburg County, Salisbury, Walkertown, Weaverville and Winston-Salem.
Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: 919-419-6563, @dawnbvaughan